Once again, I am late to the proverbial book party. But I’ve finally arrived and I’m having the best time ever and I don’t want to leave. The Knife of Never Letting Go (henceforth known as TKONLG because I am lazy) is the first book in the Chaos Walking Trilogy and I cannot articulate what a dazzling read it was.
Embarrassing confession time: at 30-40 pages in, I wasn’t sure I was going to like it all that much. Initially, I found the spelling (tho, infekshun, creacher) and dialogue a bit difficult to adjust to. But after picking it up and putting it down a few times, something clicked for me and suddenly I was racing through the pages desperate to find out what would happen to Todd and Viola. If you haven’t already read TKONLG, I suggest you open your browser or head to a bookshop and buy it (I’m not fussy, do what works for you, y’know). But whatever you do, buy that goddamn book right now – you won’t regret it, I promise. Oh, it’s probably worth mentioning that you should buy #2 and #3 while you’re at it. It’s a pretty addictive series, this one.
Todd Hewitt is the last boy in Prentisstown and very soon, he will become a man. He doesn’t really know what that means, but what he does know is that Prentisstown isn’t like any other towns. For a start, Todd can hear exactly what his dog, Manchee, is thinking. Pretty cool, huh? Well this isn’t a cute Dr Dolittle reboot, so not really. Thanks to a curious virus, it isn’t just animals whose thoughts can be heard. All of the women are dead and all of the men can hear each others thoughts. The town is never quiet and there’s certainly no secrets to be kept from anyone. Instead there is only ‘Noise’ – the constant background buzz of thoughts from which there is no escape until one day, Todd stumbles upon Viola. A real girl, and a silent one at that. Who is she? Where has she come from? Why can’t Todd hear her? And what dark secrets lurk in the Noise of Prentisstown men and their Mayor, David Prentiss?
Ness has a real talent for creating characters and drawing emotion from them without ever making it seem forced or cliche. Todd and Viola are two of the most fully formed young protagonists that I have come across in YA series. They don’t always make the right decisions, they develop realistically with the plot and although there comes to be a deep connection between them, their relationship isn’t based on fancying each other. At aged approximately 13, it definitely shouldn’t be anyway, but it’s refreshing nonetheless. They’re so very human and I loved them both. I thought one or two of the other characters were a bit over the top (I’m looking at you, crazy Preacher Aaron) but Mayor Prentiss is a fabulously realised villain: evil, but certainly not in an obvious panto way. Characterisation is a great talent of Ness’ – he barely ever describes the Mayor’s appearance or personality in any depth, yet he still finds a way to make him jump off of the pages.
The pacing is good and the plot weaves its way through a number of complex themes which include war, death, family, grief, sexism, racism and genocide. Like Philip Pullman a la ‘His Dark Materials’, Ness manages to breathe all of these heavy topics into his plot and the bones of his characters without ever seeming heavy handed.
A truly brilliant story. I loved it.
“I think that maybe everybody falls” I say. “I think maybe we all do. And I don’t think that’s the asking.”
“I think the asking is whether we get back up again.”
― Patrick Ness, The Knife of Never Letting Go
- Author: Patrick Ness
- Release Date: May 2008
- Publisher: Walker
- Pages: 479
- Rating: 4/5
- In three words: Noisy, poignant adventure.